Immunologists play a central role in translating basic science into effective response strategies, helping communities and individuals to anticipate, detect, respond to, and recover from the impact of health emergencies, hazards, events or conditions. This has become especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a new Trends in Immunology paper, Nathaniel Hupert, MD, MPH, associate professor of population health sciences at Weill Cornell Medicine and co-director of the Cornell Institute for Disease and Disaster Preparedness; Douglas Nixon, MA, DPhil, professor of immunology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine; and Daniela Marín-Hernández, postdoctoral associate in the Division of Infectious Diseases within Weill Cornell Medicine’s Department of Medicine, propose that groups of immunologists coalesce both within national bodies and internationally to create a pandemic preparedness task force. From the researchers’ perspective, the rapid response to the current COVID-19 pandemic has helped to develop a road map for immunologists to follow in preparation for the inevitable next pandemic. Because immunological data is essential to understanding the human–pathogen interface, immunologists’ seats at the pandemic response table should reflect their unique role as generators and custodians of such data.